Kickstart your career in the creative sector

Land your first job, make the role your own, and live happily ever after

A woman smiling in front of a desk

In 2015, I left University and started a graduate internship at Oxford University. Years later, I’m still in a creative job I love and earning a high wage with a great work-life balance. I’m an author, illustrator, and all-round content creator in a full-time position working from home with a comfortable amount of freelance work for myself.

Keep reading for my approach to kickstart your own creative career. Earn a high wage whilst doing work you love and living life how you want.

Step 1 – Kick the door open and show your value

Build your personal brand

Whether you’re ready to start looking for work, or you’re still studying full-time, start building your personal brand now.

A personal brand is an identity you create for yourself that tells the world who you are and what you stand for. To build your personal brand, consider these five things:

  1. What’s your purpose?
  2. Who do you want to help?
  3. What value can you offer?
  4. What unique skills and perspective do you have?
  5. How are you going to grow your network and engage your audience?

Identify and develop your core skills

No matter where you are in your career, you need to stay committed to learning and developing your skills. If you don’t, other people will get the job promotion or win the work. Remember, qualifications aren’t everything; even if you don’t have the exact skill requirements for the creative role that you’re wishing for, you can still prove that you’re an intelligent, adaptable creative thinker and back it up with practical experience. This is often what people actually want to see.

Here are four skills that you need to master and shout about:

  1. Observation and analysing the root cause of problems
  2. Problem solving and thinking of multiple creative solutions
  3. Implementation and how you practically bring your ideas to life
  4. Communicating verbally and written to convey your creative ideas effectively

How to present the best version of yourself

If you’re applying for a job, a CV and / or portfolio is how you showcase your personal brand. If you’re pitching for work, this is likely to be a proposal. Your social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, also act as a public CV. To present the best version of yourself and optimise employment opportunities, here are my top three tips:

1. Be creative

You’re applying for a creative position, so think outside-the-box when building your CV. Show your prospective employer what you can do immediately and give an outstanding first impression. Make sure it plays to your strengths and is tailored for your audience.

2. Design matters

The person looking at your CV will have already looked at hundreds of others that all look the same and blend into one. Make yours stand out and represent your personal brand. Include a photo of yourself and make it easy to read at a glance. Tell a visual story and hook the reader straight away with images, layout, patterns, colours, fonts, etc.

3. Double-check and get feedback

Make sure there are no mistakes and you’ve covered all the content that shows why you’re the best person for the job. Ask someone else who you trust to give constructive feedback. When there’s a lot of pressure to do well, it’s easy to make mistakes and sometimes you’re too close to your own work to judge it objectively. A fresh pair of eyes can help you make the best first impression.

Step 2 – Make your own fulfilling role

Landing your dream role doesn’t mean the hard work stops. Keep reading to make sure your role lives up to your expectations and continues to be a role you want.

These three things will help you make your creative career fulfilling and successful. Balancing creativity with commercialism will ensure that you keep your customers, employer, and yourself happy. Problem solving can help you to make the most of opportunities and overcome obstacles. Communicating clearly is one of the biggest ways you can ensure a fulfilling creative career. It will help you to manage expectations, explain creative ideas or how to implement new ways of working, influence decision making when seeking new opportunities, and express hard feelings to the right people when you’re struggling.

Step 3 – Sustaining a creative career

Being a Creative is hard. There is constant pressure to keep coming up with better ideas and produce popular work quickly. There’s no right way to create and no one tells you what to do, AND everyone has a different opinion. It’s exhausting. Keep reading for how to overcome obstacles to a successful, productive, happy creative career.

Live by the Creative’s Code

To avoid burnout and have a long, rewarding career as a Creative:

How to boost your creativity every day

The reason we want a career in the Creative Industries is because we love the opportunity to be CREATIVE. That’s why the key to being successful, proactive, and happy in a creative role is by improving our creativity every day. To make a habit of developing creative skills, I use a tool that I’ve developed called ‘Cups of Creativity.’

Cups of Creativity

Embed the following steps (‘cups’) that develop your creativity into your daily routine at your own pace. Start slowly and gradually build up the number of cups you complete in a day over time to avoid burnout and frustration. You can add your own extra cups that are specific to your chosen career, such as video editing, using Adobe Illustrator, etc.

1st cup – Breakfast Creativity (5 mins):

Write down or draw how you’re feeling and any passing thoughts through your head. Do this when you wake up or before you want to start your creative process. Spend five minutes expressing random thoughts to feel energised and refreshed for the day.

2nd cup – Priority (30mins – 1hr):

Block out time to complete your priority for the day. Save your priority for when you’re feeling most naturally productive.

3rd cup – Infuse inspiration (30 mins):

Spend time browsing LinkedIn, reading books, researching, and gathering inspiration for your own creativity. Find three things to add to your inspiration board that you can apply to a project you’re working on, or just makes you happy. Spend the remainder of time reviewing your inspiration board for ideas. 

4th cup – Connectivity (15 mins):

Actively connect with someone about an idea or something you saw and thought they would like. This could be a colleague, an existing connection in your network, or someone completely new who shares similar values on social media. It’s an effective way to grow your network and ideas.

5th cup – New variety (30 mins – 1hr):

Discover a completely new skill or continue practising and developing an existing one. Perhaps you could combine this with a project you’re working on if you have enough time to complete it.

6th cup – Sustainability (15 mins):

It’s good to take sips of this throughout the day too, but try this at the end of your workday, whatever that time may be for you. Remind yourself of your purpose and your customers. Now ask yourself three questions:

1. How well have I progressed towards my purpose and for my customers? Consider what you want to do more and less of.

2. What’s my priority for tomorrow? Book out time in your calendar for the tasks that you want to get done.

3. How do I feel? If you feel exhausted at the end of the day, add more breaks tomorrow and consider decreasing the number of tasks in a day. You should feel energised and accomplished at the end of a creative day.

7th cup – Bedtime creativity (5 mins):

Write down or draw any passing thoughts. This is the same activity as breakfast creativity but do this before you go to bed. Hopefully it will empty your head to switch off your creativity for a better night’s sleep.

What now?

Be open to new opportunities that are right for you and be ready to put yourself forward for them. Land your first creative role with a personal brand, skills, and CV that makes you stand out. Once you’re in a role, make sure it’s rewarding and lives up to your expectations. Create a fulfilling role by balancing creativity with commercialism, problem solving, and communicating effectively. For a long-lasting creative career that you will love forever, live by the Creative’s Code and improve your creativity every day. Cups of Creativity is a tool that can help you build improvement into a habit as part of your daily routine.

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